INAUGURATION DAY 2021
Young adults weigh in on the state of the United States
As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris get ready to take the oath of office today at 12 noon, there is one thing that most Americans can agree on: we are a deeply divided country. Over the weekend, Cassandra talked to a group of Gen Zs and Millennials to understand how they feel about last week’s events at the U.S. Capitol, political division, and the future of democracy.
HOW DO WE COME TOGETHER?
Gen Zs and Millenials feel that achieving unity in America is an enormous challenge—but not an impossible one. Through eliminating the two-party system, offering equal rights for everyone, communicating honestly, and leading with humanity, some young people have hope that unity may be possible.
"I think a leader today would need to unite the American people over values that people on the left and right both share—perhaps, say, a vision of a prosperous America. Right now, people on both sides of the ideological divide are mostly opposed to listening to the other side, because their views seem to differ so much. It'd be hard to bridge that gap, but at least reminding people that we all pertain to the same country, the same America, would help us unify. I think a leader would also have to take strong measures to empower women, racial and religious minorities, LGBT people, and so on, putting them in visible positions of power and also openly supporting their causes. This would help people of all identities be accepted and understood by the American people as a whole, which doesn't often happen nowadays (or that's what it feels like, at least)." - Sai, 22, WA
“Eliminate lobbying at the federal level and fundamentally reform election funding so that representatives are elected because they actually care. Establish split ticket voting so we're not stuck in the same two-party system that has plagued us for decades.” - Melissa, 22, FL
“[To help unite the country, leaders should] do what is best for America, and not be one-sided.” - Nicole, 27, PA
“I honestly have no idea [what a leader could do to help unify this country]. I do not see unity happening in my lifetime.” - Rahrah, 25, NJ
“The chance of unifying the country is slim to none.” - Ian, 34, CA
“A leader [should] fight for what’s right for the American people and not [just for] their own beliefs in what’s right for their political party.” - Shae, 22, TX
A ROUGH START TO THE NEW YEAR
Both sides of the political aisle are feeling scared about not just today, but the future of the country. We asked young people to tell us how they felt in the wake of the January 6th riot at the Capitol.
“This is completely destroying what our country was built on and we may not be able to go back.” - Stephanie, 33, NJ
“If anything, I'm kind of happy it [the Capitol riot] happened, not because people's lives were in danger and people were killed, but [because] I think that it made leaders finally realize that President Trump is a real threat and that we needed to address this threat years ago. My biggest concern is that these people are still out there and are capable of much more violence if given the opportunity.” - Melissa, 22, FL
“My biggest concern is the security of my family and friends. I was born and raised an American and the last thing I want is for our infrastructure to falter, especially with all the riots. I would like to know my family is safe, but I know safety is not guaranteed.” - Shae, 22, TX
“Our government is becoming a joke.” - Robert, 29, WI
“[It’s] sad to see people fighting.” - Randy, 33, CA
“Our government has fumbled the bag a bit and everyone has been left floundering.” - Shae, 22, TX
AN EFFORT TO INTRODUCE BALANCE TO NEWS BUBBLES
As much as young adults adore social media, many are turned off by algorithms that encourage echo chambers. To thwart the threat of built-in “bubbles” on their newsfeeds, some Millennials and Gen Zs are actively following influencers and channels that share different beliefs than their own. This active effort to expose themselves to new perspectives and better understand “the other side” demonstrates the young adult desire for empathy, peace, and the cancellation of cancel-culture.
“I do [expose myself to different viewpoints]. I like to surround myself with people who think similarly and differently from me. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and look at various perspectives because we all live different lifestyles.” - Shae, 22, TX
“I always like to look at things from both sides because things are never right on [just] one side.” - Robert, 29, WI
“I try not to [expose myself to different viewpoints]. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect that.” - Victor, 15, IL
“I do listen to news from podcasts from different channels [and] news outlets so I'm not biased toward one [side] or the other.” - Michelle, 32, NJ